The baby formula shortage war has ramped up.
There have been threats of racism and accusations of xenophobia. Petitions and calls for changes to the Free Trade Agreement. There have been demands to change the Customs Act and furious calls to lobby the government.
And it’s all about baby formula.
If you don’t have an infant or you haven’t been lurking in a Facebook mothers, you might not know what I mean. You might not have seen the photo everyone is talking about.
But if you do have a formula fed baby then there is no doubt you would have experienced the same frustrations as thousands of other parents around the country. And that is the inability to obtain your baby’s infant formula due to a shortage of stock on supermarket shelves.
Melbourne mother Jessica Hay has uploaded an image to Facebook of a shopper buying up dozens of tins of A2 Platinum baby formula at her local supermarket.
An image which has gone to the heart of the problem according to many.
It’s believe people, like the woman in the image, are selling the formula to buyers in China for an extremely high price.
Ms Hay, who spoke to Fairfax Media about her viral image, said, “The group of four adults cleared a pallet of more than 50 tins despite the store’s four tins per person limit.”
“My blood was boiling for the mothers having problems finding A2 for their babies. I was feeling sensitive because I’ve got a newborn,”
“If they were with babies, it would be understandable, they need to feed their kids too. But it felt like a smooth operation, like they did this all the time.”
She’s referring to the well-publicised baby formula shortage, fuelled by an online black market for baby formula where tins are retailing for up $180 for a lot of three.
On the weekend Mamamia reported on the shortage of one formula – Ballamy’s Organic.
The demand for this particular product has been so great that in the first six months of the 2015 calendar year, $27 million worth of Bellamy’s infant formula was bought in Australia and on sold to the Chinese market.
The buyers stock up on the “white gold” then either ship it overseas to family and friends or sell it online.
Seven News reports that the pallet in the photo uploaded by Ms Hay could net the buyers more than $1,500 on China’s online auction site Taobao.com.
The unfortunate thing here is that the story is nothing new.
In 2013, The Daily Telegraph reported that Chinese students were being recruited en masse to buy up infant formula to sell on the black market.
This prompted chemists and supermarkets across Melbourne and Sydney to introduce limits on the number of tins per customer to prevent Chinese nationals depleting supply for locals.
The limitations however have proved hard to enforce with reports that Chinese families were shopping on mass “pretending not to know each other.”
The act of buying it and shipping it to China is not illegal. Baby formula is not a restricted or prohibited item under the Customs Act and Customs and Border Protection does not control its import or export.
Some underhanded techniques are being reported with some chemists writing of customers offering to pay cash for up to 5000 tins of formula before they even hit the shelves.